When I'm teaching at a show, one of the required pieces of information is the supply list for the class. And that almost always includes a phrase along the lines of "class yarn and appropriate needles." What does that mean?
Class yarn is yarn that you like to use for learning. Some characteristics:
- light, bright, or medium color -- i.e. you can see what you are doing
- worsted rather than woolen -- again, so you can see the stitches
- not fuzzy -- fuzz obscures stitches (You see the pattern forming here?)
- worsted weight unless stated otherwise -- big enough you can see the stitches
- non-splitting -- yarn should be easy to work
- wool or other resilient fiber -- again, easy to work
- at least two colors; more may be better
- not precious
Multiple colors is helpful for a couple reasons. Some classes involve techniques for which you really do need two (of more) colors of yarn. But multiple colors can also be handy if you are a slower knitter or want to spend more time on a particular swatch. If you have enough needles, stitch holders, or waste yarn, you can set down a swatch in progress, make a note of which color is which technique, and move on to the next swatch with the rest of the class. After class, you can pick up your color-coded swatches, sit quietly, and really practice what you are learning at a speed that is right for you.
What I mean by "not precious" is that this should be yarn you care not a whit about. Because I both teach and take a lot of classes, I have a separate stash of class yarn. Class yarn isn't listed in my Ravelry stash. It is yarn that I do not intend to use for a project. It is only for class. In this way, it does not matter what happens to it. I can use it; I can share with someone else in class; I can lose a ball because it rolls under the table. The purpose of the yarn is to learn with it.
At one point in time, I had six skeins of Nashua Julia as my class yarn. This was rather nice, upscale class yarn. I had purchased it at bargain prices when Purly Gates went out of business. After getting me through five years of STITCHES South, that yarn has about run out, so I now have four skeins of Ella Rae. The colors I've chosen are bright -- hot pink, tangerine, key lime green, and electric blue. When I pack for a show, I just toss those yarns into my bag.
By the way, you'll notice that all of these are plain. For many techniques, a single solid color is fine. But there are some techniques where a multicolored yarn is not a bad thing. Sometimes having different colors can help you distinguish different stitches, so you can really see the structure of the fabric. So a multicolored yarn is not always a bad idea; it depends on what you are trying to learn.
Of course, I also need to toss in "appropriate needles." What are those?
"Appropriate needles" are needles in a size and type you like for working your class yarn. If you are taking a class on lace knitting or some other technique that involves a lot of stitch manipulation, then you may want pointy needles if you tend towards being a tight knitter. I happen to like the slickness of metal needles, but a lot of knitters prefer wood to keep stitches from moving without authorization. Sometimes the supply list will tell you if you will be knitting in the round or if you will be making cables. I usually have cable needles or wooden double-pointed needles with me when I take a class. Ideally, packing an interchangeable needle set should mean you are ready for anything, especially if you know how to work in the round using either magic loop or two circular needles. And there are some special techniques where you need points at both ends, so plain knitting pins won't work.
Sometimes I will also add the phrase "and notions" to the list. What does that mean?
Notions are the extra little tools. Scissors, stitch markers, tape measure, stitch holder, tapestry needle, and a crochet hook for fixing mistakes are all examples of notions. I have a big Tupperware box full of notions. But if I want something small to toss in a bag for class, I have a small tin box of travel notions. Even if a supply list does not specifically say "notions," bring them anyway. For example, even if the teacher doesn't tell you to bring stitch markers, you may find you work more easily and understand more clearly and quickly if you employ those little rings.
Last item: paper and writing implement. I always hand out a piece of paper. Always. So if you take a class with me, you should only need a pen or pencil for your notes, because you will have a handout. But I have taken classes where I did not receive any handouts. Spinners especially seem to eschew paper and writing, probably because they are already wrangling wheels and using all four limbs at once. Keep a notepad with your class materials. And if you are taking a spinning class, you might bring along a hole punch and some 3×5 cards. In this way, you can spin a little, snip a sample, loop it through a hole, and write a note about what you did or why this sample is important.
With a little preparation, you can have waiting for you a basic kit of what you will need for almost any class you might take.